A View to a Grille [COTY2021] : 2021 BMW G80 M3 Competition Sedan Drive Review

By davidkhoo, 30 January 2022

BMW G80 M3 Competition Sedan 2021 Drive Review : A View to a Grille [COTY2021]

Singapore - Get over it already… It’s clearly grilling you slowly if you’re still talking trash about the new G8x M3/M4’s grille.

We liked it when the photos first dropped and loved it even more when we saw it in the flesh (first in Isle of Man Green HERE) and now in our test-car’s Alpenweiss.

The posse of purists is extra-critical and raring to get its blend of cancel culture rolling whenever it involves special models, especially for cult cars like the M3/M4 that have huge shoes to fill – the legion of fan(atic)s comes for free, naturally!

Armchair critics wearing retro-tinted glasses tend to subject new models to intense scrutiny and are ready to throw shade at anything resembling revolutionary revisions.

As far as automotive icons like the M3 are concerned, these anoraks tend to be more comfortable with a glacial pace of evolution.

Before we attract any shade for being n00bs, we’re actually huge fans of the M3 and have driven almost every M3 (and later M4) model since the E30 – GTS, E90 M3 CRT and E46 M3 CSL inclusive.

Each successive generation has attracted its fair share of flak and apoplectic fits at their respective launches from self-styled OG M purists and we reckon the latest G80 will be no exception.

With the rise of the ‘Gram and TikTok, it’s no longer sufficient for car brands to build cars that appeal only to the cognoscenti, but to the wider social media audience as well.

When we grew up, stealthy, ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ sportscars were cool precisely because they were discreet and didn’t look the part.

These days, hype is the new hip and when something explodes virally virtually, it becomes a real beast of engagement that everyone is eagerly chasing after.

This means that new models need to make bigger-bolder-brasher statements in terms of both performance and presence.

Doing the job is no longer adequate, because you need to talk-up how busy you’re keeping too…

And what a job the new frameless vertical grille is performing at making a statement!

We like how the M3 Comp now stands out from the rest of the Bimmer brigade.

In particular, the way the sedan’s rear flared fenders pop out of the body adds to its aggressively stanced stance and this is as unapologetically un-PC as you can get.

The polarising aspect of the kidney-grille is exactly what ignites passionate debate.

Regardless of whether you’re for or against it, at least it’s gotten you talking about the M3/M4, which is a lot more than we can say about many modern cars that run towards the safety of homogeneity.

Naturally, it’s got all the familiar trappings of M-dom, which include aero-mirrors, quad-tailpipes, a luscious carbonfibre roof and intricately styled rims.

Make no mistake, the new M3 Comp Sedan isn’t just hotter and harder than before, it’s still a big hoot to drive, not least because of the hard-hitting twin-turbo’d inline6’s 510hp/650Nm.

With transmission duties now handled by the 8spd M Steptronic automatic gearbox, the shifts are well-slurred, yet authoritative – a satisfying dichotomy we enjoyed wrapping our heads around.

The cabin isn’t a spartan motorsports-inspired nightmare you’d imagine for such a sporting machine.

Instead, there’s now a lofty level of poshness to the M3’s interior that can probably be traced back to the most recent F8x generation – in fact, it’s even possible to spec the cockpit to lux-limo levels of lushness should you so choose.

We’re here for the main event though, which for every M model, is the drive.

Although the multitude of engine / suspension / traction control / transmission configurations seems daunting at first, you’ll only need to bite the bullet once to pre-set M1 and M2.

After that, your favourite settings can be recalled via the steering wheel triggers whenever you’re in the car: Jekyll-Hyde, Devil-Saint or even His/Hers, whatever you like.

The M3 Competition Sedan is a rolling, rollicking paradox that can transmogrify from hospitable to headbanging in the blink of an eye, which is incidentally about all the time you have to catch a breath before the deep exhaust note starts its music and the mosh pit action begins.

The damping is well-controlled without being overly firm on roads other than those that are racetrack smooth and there’s a rowdy responsiveness to the throttle that lets one flex the engine’s full fury with just a flex of the right foot. 

Driven sedately, there’s a James Bond civility to the car that can lull one into a sense of false security as you potter about town, that is, until the red mist descends and you unleash its tarmac-terrorising villain within.

Where the early M3s required some skill to drive fast and on-the-limit, there’s a greater envelope of safety in the latest iterations for less experienced drivers, especially with so much torque being force-fed to the rear-wheels.

You can toggle between ​ten stages of traction control to suit driving styles that span incisive to inept and everything in-between, or zero to hero as we like to call it.

The staggered 19-inch (275/35) front and 20-inch (285/30) rear footwear is a potent yet elegant combination that endows the steering with a keen precision during turn-in, yet affords ample grip in the rear when you’re getting on the gas early to power out of the corners.

The M3 Competition is properly lit and has enough depth of personality to let you light-up the rear tyres at will too, because it can be as sticky or as slippery as you desire.

We like the taut quality of the cabin fit-finish, as well as those of the driver’s touch-points: steering, paddles, pedals and even seat-of-pants.

You can’t underestimate the importance of a snugly supportive sports seat, not least because it’ll hold you in place when the lateral gs build, but also because there’s constant communication from the car’s chassis to your chassis, since driving fast is as much about feel as it is aural/visual.

Like some of the other cars in our 2021 Singapore-Style Cars of the Year, the M3 Competition has evolved beyond the role of sportscar into a performance all-rounder and enthusiasts are so much the richer for it.

Now repeat after me, “Big Grille, Don’t Cry!”

PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals

BMW (G80) M3 Competition Sedan

Engine 2993cc, inline6, twin-turbo
Power/rpm 510hp/6250rpm
Torque/rpm 650Nm/2750-5500rpm
Transmission 8spd M Steptronic auto
0-100km/h 3.9secs
Top Speed 250km/h (electronically-limited)
Fuel Consumption 10-10.2l/100km (combined)
CO2 228-234g/km

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